Language in intercultural worship


Hardly anybody will disagree that meaningful worship depends to a large extend upon the use of known languages in intercultural services of worship. Leaders and policymakers of intercultural services of worship will do well to remind themselves from time to time why language plays such an important role in the worship experience of participants. Some reasons for the use of well known languages in intercultural worship services are for example:

  •  People hear and understand the Word of God better in their own or other well known languages.
  • People communicate more personal and intense with God and others in their own or well known language. .
  • People worship God easier and more heartfelt in their own vernacular or well known language.
  • People feel more at ease with fellow members of the church or visiting strangers if they can easily communicate with them in a known language. Fellowship depends largely upon the ability to understand one another.
  • Using different languages in services communicate to people that they have been thought of and seen.  Speaking someone’s heart language communicates honor, humility, and respect.
  • Known words are not neutral or convey only information. Words and language have creative power. Words understood, influence people. It can harm or build them up (Eph.4:29) and can change attitude and behaviour. Known words inform and “perform” when they are being used in language. Israel Galindo: “In a faith community, language serves a formative function and is one indicator that a congregation is a genuine community of faith. That is, the community’s idiom – consisting of its vocabulary, patterns of speech, spoken rituals and rites (like blessings and prayers)-functions in ways that shape the faith of its members.” Since language and words are such a normal and continues part of our lives, we are not always aware of the tremendous impact it has on the way we think, feel and behave. The transformation of Christians and congregations will however always includes change in the language of the individuals and the congregation. Language will give expression to and shape the new identity and behaviour of transformed Christians and congregations.

Intercultural churches who strive for meaningful and blessed services of worship, will make a deliberate effort to develop language policies and practises which will promote fellowship with God and men and will enhance the performative power of language in their midst.


Policies and practices regarding the use of languages during service of worship depend largely upon the existence or not of a language which the majority of members understand (even if it is not their mother tongue) and the size of the groups who speak different languages.

The following techniques may be considered to manage bi-lingual or multi-lingual services of worship:

Use a language known by all.

 If all the members in the congregation understand a certain language although it is not the mother tongue of all the participants,   the leadership could consider to conduct the service of worship in that language. Such an approach should however allow that certain aspects of the service could be done in the vernacular of the peoples present (for example the singing, prayers and liturgical creeds). Language groups should however from time to time be allowed to meet for fellowship and worship in their mother tongue. The use of a data projector to give a translation of the different aspects of the service and a summary of the sermon in the other language(s) can assist a lot to ensure that all present know what is happening although they may not understand all the spoken words.

Many people assume that if people from different language groups can speak and understand one common language, they all will therefore prefer the use of that language in the services of worship. For example the use of English, Portuguese, Spanish or a trade language which all people who participate in the worship, may understand. This is however not always the case! There are examples where people preferred the translation of the services of worship in their own vernacular even though the members of different language groups in the service all understand one common language. In one congregation for example the Xhosa and Afrikaans speaking groups preferred the use of a translator instead of conducting the service in English which most of them understood fairly well.

 Use only two mayor languages

 Consider it to conduct the service in only two major languages if all members know at least one of the two languages fairly well. In such a case an able translator may be the best solution to assist with the communication between the worship leader (one language) and the congregation (two languages). Using more than one translator put a lot of stress on all who participate in the service: preacher, translators and members.

If the preacher or worship leader is fluent in both languages, he/she can conduct the whole service while using the two languages alternatively. The challenge is to switch languages and repeat key sentences often enough so that the people could still follow the speaker although they do not understand everything.

A variation of this approach is to conduct the service in more than one language, but do the preaching in only one language at a time. If the preacher can speak both languages, he/she may preach the same sermon in two languages, the one sermon following the other. Two different people can also be used to conduct the preaching in two different sermons during the same service.   In such a case the group who cannot follow the preaching could get an “assignment” for the duration of the preaching, for example:

  • People can be asked to read and reflect on the passage which will be (have been) preached or on a related passage.
  • A few questions could be given to them to answer in the light of a given passage.
  • Intercession for specific people or projects could also be done in that time.

Use dominant language and only another one

If one language is dominant but small groups of different languages also attend the services, it can be considered to use the dominant language and translate everything in the language which most other people may understand even if it is not their vernacular. In South Africa such a language may be English and in Mozambique it may be Portuguese.

Use several translators at the same time

Congregations which can afford the technical layout and have the necessary expertise available, may also consider it to use several translators to do translation during the service while people use earphones to participate in the service. This method could be very useful if there are several smaller language groups in a congregation.

Provision for translation for small groups who do not understand the language used in the service of worship could be made by grouping the different language groups in small groups with a translator who translates softly to them throughout the service. This can only be done if it is possible for such groups to sit far enough from the others not to disturb them, for example on the gallery.

Use data projector/printed sheet for a second or more languages

Conduct the service mainly in one language, but give a translation of the different parts of the service on a data projector or a printed sheet. Hymns, Bible texts, prayers, liturgical forms, sermon, announcements etc. are all made available in another language (s) by means of a data projector or hand out. People responsible for different parts of a service of worship can be made responsible to prepare power points or information for a printed sheet about their contributions.


It is important to remember that verbal communication is not the only, or always the most important, modus of communication in services of worship. Other important forms of communication are also present, knowingly or unknowingly. The communication which takes place, or fail to take place through other means than words, may strengthen, intensified, damage or destroy the verbal communication in a known language. Worship leaders need to take at least the following forms of communication seriously in planning and conducting intercultural services of worship:

Non verbal body language

 We continuously give and receive wordless signals when we interact with other people. We are not always aware of the signals we receive or give in our interaction. All our nonverbal behaviors constantly send messages to others and we are also constantly receiving and interpreting nonverbal behaviour of others. In a multicultural context the possibility is very big that someone from one culture can attach a total wrong or even harmful meaning to nonverbal behaviour of someone from another culture. This may happen because of ignorance or due to the temptation to interpret the behaviour of others in terms of one’s own culture or culture preference.

It is therefore important for worship leaders to get a clear picture of the nonverbal meaning which different culture groups attach to behaviour such as specific gestures or facial expressions, eye contact, movements and posture, space, tempo, loudness, silence and physical contact. It is important that nonverbal communication confirms, strengthens and broadens the verbal communication. A deliberate effort should be made to ensure that the verbal and nonverbal communication of idees, feelings and intentions are the same. In most cases listeners will believe and respond to the nonverbal communication if they have to choose between conflicting verbal and non-verbal messages. The fact that different culture groups may know and use a common language, does not guarantee good communication.

Visual and symbolic language

People who speak different languages are usually able to communicate certain thoughts, concepts, feelings or intentions through visual aids or symbols to people who do not understand their language. It is wise to use visual aids and symbols in intercultural worship to convey, strengthen or broaden specific messages between participants in the worship.

Visual aids and symbols do not only assist with the communication itself, but it can also play an important role to create a safe space and an encouraging climate for deep and real communication. People who see for example symbols which are familiar to them when they join an intercultural community, or are provided with visual aids to explain the liturgy and sequence of liturgy for them, may relax, feel acknowledged and respected. They may therefore be more open and motivated to participate in any form of communication during the worship.

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Five types of multicultural churches by Dr Bob Whitesel

I came across this summary of multi-cultural churches by Dr. Bob Whitesel and decided to post it since it adds to the summary of different models for multicultural churches which I posted some time ago. I got this article at:

5 Types of Multi-Cultural (Mosaic) Churches

 The Multicultural Alliance Church

This church is an alliance of several culturally different sub-congregations. Daniel Sanchez describes it as one church “comprised of several congregations in which the autonomy of each congregation is preserved and the resources of the congregations are combined to present a strong evangelistic ministry.” The different cultures thus form an alliance by joining together as one religious organization in which they equally:

  • Share leadership duties (i.e. leadership boards are integrated),
  • Share assets (it is only one nonprofit 501c3 organization)
  • Offer separate worship expressions (to connect with more cultures)
  • Offer blended worship expressions (to create unity).

 The Multicultural Partnership Church

Here a congregation, usually in a more affluent position, partners with a church in a financially struggling culture to help the latter. This often occurs when a church in a growing suburb partners to help one or more struggling urban congregations. Al Tizon and Ron Sider in their helpful book, Linking Arms, Linking Lives: How Urban-Suburban Partnerships Can Transform Communities, share many success stories regarding how wealthier churches are redistributing their wealth through a financial partnership with urban congregations.

 The Multicultural Mother-Daughter Church

This may be the most prevalent model in North America. Here a mother church launches (or plants) a daughter congregation that is intended to become self-sufficient. The daughter is usually a different culture than the mother church. For example, an Anglo mother church might launch a Hispanic Church, a Hip-Hop Church, an African-American church, etc. These daughter congregations are “external” church plants, because the intention is for them to eventually become independent or “external” to the mother church’s organizational structure.

 The Multicultural Blended Church

The Blended Church may be the second most common type of multicultural church. Most of its worship celebrations blend or mix several different cultural styles of music and liturgy. For example, a 17the century hymn may be followed by Africana music, followed by Hispanic or Asian songs and sermon illustrations from Native American stories. The idea is to celebrate varied cultures in one worship service. While worshiping in a blended format can create a degree of cross-cultural sensitivity, it may also be weaker in its outreach potential because it is less relevant to people who identify strongly with their cultural traditions. People from emerging cultures usually adapt to the dominant culture in one of three ways.

  1. Consonant adapters are people from an emerging culture who adapt almost entirely to the dominant culture. Over time they will mirror the dominant culture in behavior, ideas and products. Thus, they will usually be drawn to a church that reflects the dominant culture.
  2. Selective adapters adapt to some parts of a dominant culture, but reject other aspects. They want to preserve their cultural heritage, but will compromise in most areas to preserve harmony. They can be drawn to the Blended Model because it still celebrates to a degree their culture.
  3. Dissonant adapters fight to preserve their culture in the face of a dominant culture’s influence. Dissonant adapters may find the blended format of the Blended Church as too inauthentic and disingenuous to their strongly held cultural traditions.

Not surprisingly, the Multicultural Blended Church usually attracts those who are selective adapters.

 The Cultural Assimilation Church

This is actually not a multicultural church. This is the church where a dominant culture tries to make over other cultures in its image. One researcher described it this way, the dominant culture “opens their doors for the ethnics to come to their churches and worship God in their way with predictable lack of success” (italics original author).

There are churches in North American who embrace the assimilation model today in hairstyles, clothing styles, music, etc. They believe that newcomers will mature quicker in their faith if they adopt the congregation’s pre-existing traditions. These churches can give the impression that their culture is superior than other cultures (and they may actually believe it). For example, assimilationists insinuate that non-Anglos should be come whiter. But theologians cry foul, with one stating: “The New Testament precedents strongly asserted that the gospel was not indented to make Gentiles more Jewish, and Jewish more Gentile, but rather that each culture was to maintain its integrity in the body of Christ.”

These five types of multi-cultural churches can provide a framework through which the church must begin to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each.


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Missionêre en/of dissipelmakende gemeentes?

Dit is verblydend dat baie gemeentes daadwerklike pogings aanwend om ‘n missionêre kultuur in hulle gemeentes te vestig. Die beweging van gemeentes met “sendelinge en sendingaksies” na gemeentes wat in alles ‘n gestuurde van God in die hele wêreld wil wees, verdien ondersteuning en aanmoediging. Tereg het hierdie gesteurdheid van die gemeente na die wêreld ‘n omvattende gerigtheid waar daar gestreef word na heling, versoening en bevryding t.o.v. alles wat die eer van God,  menswaardige lewe en die skepping bedreig. Heel konkreet en prakties blyk dit dat baie gemeentes op plaaslike vlak by inisiatiewe en aksies betrokke is wat aan hierdie ideale uitdrukking wil gee. Talle gelowiges streef ook as enkelinge om in hulle daaglikse handel en wandel as gestuurdes van God in die wêreld te leef.

Terwyl daar groot waardering en dankbaarheid is vir hierdie pogings om as gestuurdes van God in die wêreld te leef, is dit ongelukkig ook ‘n werklikheid dat hierdie pogings van gemeentes dikwels steeds groot leemtes toon. Dit wil voorkom asof die onvermoë van gemeentes om dissipels van Jesus Christus in die wêreld te maak, een van hierdie leemtes is. Uit navraag by talle gemeentes blyk dit dat die gemeentes verskillende missionêre aksies en programme kan noem waarby die gemeente en lidmate as enkelinge betrokke is soos bv. uitreike, voedselvoorsiening, kleuterskole, vaardigheidsopleiding en toerustingsprogramme. Wanneer egter gevra word in watter mate of wyse hierdie inisiatiewe of ander inisiatiewe daartoe gelei het dat nie-gelowiges tot geloof in Jesus Christus gekom het en opgeneem is in ‘n geloofsgemeenskap, blyk dit dat die oorgrote meerderheid geen antwoord op die vraag kan gee nie. Dit wil voorkom asof gemeentes klaarblyklik min inisiatiewe het om mense op ‘n meer persoonlike en uitnodigende vlak aan Jesus bekend te stel en dat lidmate ook nie toegerus is om geleenthede om dit wel te doen, met vrymoedigheid aan te gryp nie. Terwyl dit so is dat die verkondiging van die evangelie en die vorming van nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe net ‘n deel vorm van die missionêre gerigtheid van ‘n gemeente, lê dit in die sentrum en indien dit afgeskeep word, sal die missionêre gerigtheid van ‘n gemeente ook nooit werklik op dreef kom nie.

Om ‘n dissipel van Jesus Christus te wees en in te skakel in die proses om ook ander dissipels van Jesus te maak, vorm die hart van gemeentewees. Waar gelowiges werklik as dissipels van Jesus Christus in die wêreld leef, sal hulle nie alleen inskakel by God se inisiatiewe om mense aan Hom te verbind nie, maar sal hulle ook op ‘n omvattende holistiese wyse gestalte gee aan die Koninkryk van God. Werklike dissipels van Jesus beperk hulle getuienis en diens nie tot evangelisasie nie, maar stap saam met Jesus die gebroke wêreld in om reg en bevryding vir hulle te bring wat verontreg word of op die een of ander wyse in kettings is. Kortweg, missionêre aktiwiteite van gemeentes lei nie noodwendig daartoe dat ongelowiges tot geloof kom en deel van die geloofsgemeenskap word nie, maar waar gemeentes waarlik lidmate help om as dissipels van Jesus in die wêreld te leef, kom ‘n nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe tot stand wat op ‘n holistiese wyse in die wêreld diensbaar is.

Hoe lyk en funksioneer dissipelmakende gemeentes? Dit is ‘n groot onderwerp. Dissipelmakende gemeentes toon waarskynlik ten minste die volgende kenmerk:

  •   Die maak van dissipels staan sentraal in alles wat die gemeente is en doen;
  • Elke gemeentelid word begelei om die mees basiese aspekte van dissipelskap te verstaan, te leef en ander daarin te begelei;
  • Gemeente vestig tradisies en praktyke wat dissipelmakende lidmate ondersteun om nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe tot stand te bring en gelowiges te laat groei in gehoorsame navolging van Jesus in die wêreld;
  • Leierskap fokus op die vorming van individuele of klein groepies van dissipels (voorbeeld, mentor) en nie op massabyeenkomste en groot samekomste nie
  • Gemeentes bevorder “familie-wees” en aanvaar onderlinge verantwoordelikheid vir mekaar en verantwoordbaarheid aan mekaar.
  • Nie bloot die vermeerdering van kennis nie, maar die “vermeerdering” van gehoorsame handel op die Woord van die Here staan voorop;
  • Koninkryk en nie kerk staan voorop; Nie verkerkliking van die lewe nie, maar betrokkenheid by mense in die wêreld word aangemoedig;
  • Nie aktiwiteite en programme nie, maar verhoudinge met (nie-) gelowiges staan voorop.

Dissipelmakende gemeentes is noodwendig gemeentes wat interkulturele bedieninge en gemeentewees aanmoedig en bevorder. Ware dissipels van Jesus in hierdie wêreld getuig teenoor alle mense en dien alle mense in die gemeenskap.  Nuwe dissipels word uit alle gemeenskappe gemaak en moet ook in (nuwe) geloofsgemeenskappe opgeneem word. Sodanige geloofsgemeenskappe moet kultuuvriendelik wees en almal kan akkommodeer wat daarby wil inskakel. Gemeentes wat nie pro-aktief probeer om interkulturele bedieninge en vorme van multikulturele gemeentewees te bevorder nie, sal waarskynlik ook nooit werklik dissipelmakende missionêre gemeentes wees nie.

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Multicultural congregations and social justice (Reflections on Leading Edge Conference)

Multicultural congregations refer to more than congregations which consist of and minister to different ethnic or racial groups. Culture differences also occur due to the existence of other groups of people in the church and community such as generational groups; class; gender, sex etc. Since congregations are called to reach out to all the people in their communities, they must be willing to serve their needs and embrace them all in their midst.

In order to share the whole gospel to all people in the community and to enable them to grow spiritually and be involved in Kingdom ministries, multicultural congregations must pay serious attention to social justice. The diversity of people and culture groups will always lead to a diversity of social justice issues associated with such different groups. True love for all people compels the church to take up the course of individuals or culture groups who are oppressed, poor, vulnerable or the victims of injustice. Multicultural congregations will become less multicultural if they do not address the social justice issues of the different culture groups in their congregations and communities. The light of the church will get dimmer and dimmer and the attraction of the gospel less and less for the different culture groups in the community. (The congregation may lose members who are not prepared to be inclusive or to address social justice issues related to different culture groups in the church and community. Losing such members will not lead to a reduction of the light or of the healing fellowship of the church).

In order to grow in numbers and/or influence in the community, multicultural congregations should give, on an ongoing basis, attention to matters of social justice. While there is joy if the membership of a multicultural congregation grows due to the increase of people from different ethnic backgrounds, the spiritual health, maturity and the light of the church are hampered when other culture groups in the community do not become part of the church or their social needs are ignored by the church. A multicultural church should at all times strive to be a community which provides a safe enough space for its members to grow in their ability to be inclusive, to give expression to reconciled relationships and to promote justice in the society.

Multicultural congregations are crucial for the development and equipment of people  for the transformation of the broader society. It is the responsibility of leadership in multicultural congregations to ensure that the members take notice of the social justice issues in the broader society. Since it is already a big challenge to lead and minster to people from different culture backgrounds, it can easily happen that all focus and energy are directed at the members and not on people outside the church and their needs and challenges.

Ways to ensure that social justice issues remain on the agenda of the church and that members are mobilized to get involved in social issues, are for example:

  • Prayer walks in the community;
  • Regular initiatives to listen to individuals and groups in the church and the community;
  • The use of the arts during worship to sensitize the members for social justice or enlarge their understanding of social issues;
  • Regular opportunities for the telling of stories of members of the church or the broader community during worship and other meetings of the church;
  • Planned opportunities on the program of the church for exposure to the Word on social justice.
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The place of the arts in multicultural worship and ministry (Reflections on Leading Edge Conference)

The arts need to play an important role in multicultural congregations and intercultural ministries

The conference opened my eyes again for the role of the arts in multicultural ministry and worship. It seems the arts plays an even more important role in multicultural ministries than in mono-cultural ministry and worship. The main reason for that is the ability of the arts to communicate  messages to people of diverse ethnic languages and to create community among people of different culture backgrounds.  In order to develop and maintain healthy and significant multicultural worship and ministries, there is therefore need to give proactive attention to the use of the arts in worship and ministry.

The arts and the birth and development of multicultural congregations  

There may be several reasons why a congregation or a church leader may decide to promote multicultural worship and ministry. Whatever the reason may be, in order to mobilise people and keep them committed to multicultural ministry, there will be need for a vision which inspires and keeps them focused on the challenge.

The arts could be used in several ways to facilitate in the process to formulate a vision for multicultural worship, for example:

  • Drama, storytelling, visual art and poetry can play a role to create awareness, and/or understanding and/or emotional openness for the “non-visible” or “not-wanted” culture groups in the community;
  • Visual aids, poems and stories may be able to communicate truths and realities to members of the church which a preacher may not be able to communicate through preaching, but which may have a big impact on the willingness of members of the church to be engaged in multicultural worship and ministries;
  • The arts can stimulate imagination and dreams of members of the church when they are in the process of formulating a vision for the multicultural ministries and worship. Imagination motivates people to get involve in things bigger than themselves.
  • Imagination stimulated by the arts motivates people to search and gain knowledge and skills about things they don’t know but need to make their dreams and vision true.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited; imagination encircles the world” Albert Einstein.

The arts and worship in multicultural congregations

Effective communication and meaningful heartfelt participation during worship are very big challenges for multicultural congregations, especially if there are very big culture differences between people who attend worship.  The arts can contribute to communication and the building of a sense of community during worship, for example:

  •  Mixed choirs and worship teams where genuine friendships develop and beter understanding and mutual support and encouragement between members develop;
  • Mixed choirs and worship teams stimulate and guide the development of a diversity of music, hymns and songs to be included in the worship;
  • Mixed choirs and worship teams reflects and build the multicultural identity of the church to all who participate, especially to new comers to the church;
  • The arts such as drama, dance, singing, visual aid or literature assist the preacher to communicate difficult or sensitive concepts or topics in a way which may lead to bigger understanding or acceptance of a matter. Often the arts can cross barriers where (preached) words would have failed or where the inability to speak an ethnic language would have blocked the message.
  • The arts can facilitate spontaneous and genuine interaction and a sense of community between people from different culture backgrounds in the course of worship, for example when they share a highlight of a performance or are exposed to the same sensitive reality in the presence of one another. The arts in a service of worship may at times be used as an introduction or stimulus for further interaction between members of the church during the worship, for example to discuss a visual presentation or to give a testimony.
  • The arts my motivate people to attend the worship services even when they have discomfort in the multicultural setting. The arts may give them enough common ground and a sense of community to continue to attend the worship and by doing so grow in their sense of belonging and ability to interact with the rest of the congregation.
  • The arts assist people to get in touch and to give expression to deep emotions regarding themselves, others or particular matters.
  • The arts can assist members see and understand well known aspects of worship in a new light such as the sacraments, prayer etc.

The arts and the missional involvement of the church in the community

The arts have the potential to be a powerful ally in the witness and service of the church in the community. It may to be the advantage of nearly any outreach, community project or matter of social justice to involve the arts as a way to communicate, mobilise or involve people, for example:

  • Music or visual art can draw people to an event and create a welcoming spirit or mobilise people to participate in an event or project;
  • Drama can expose, explain or entertain people across culture barriers;
  • Symbols and other visual art can reveal or remind multicultural groups on a constant basis about challenges, responsibilities or opportunities for action in the community;
  • The arts may replace verbal witness in multicultural contexts where church members cannot speak the local languages;
  • The arts can create joy and fun in the community as the broad framework for other projects of witness and service.

A few guidelines when using the arts in multicultural worship

Using the arts in worship is not a magic tool which will automatically contribute to multicultural worship. If not planned wisely and executed with care and sensitivity, it may fail to have a positive effect or may even become destructive.  A few guidelines for the use of the arts in worship are for example:

  •  Plan the use of the arts in worship services well in advance. The arts should blend into the broader aim, nature and content of the worship service as a whole.
  • Although the artists may not be professionals and although the arts may have a significant role to play even if it is not of the very best standard, it is still important that the arts will be of reasonable standard and that the participants are well prepared.
  • It is important to give attention and expression of the culture diversity in the church through the arts in worship. Over time all culture groups in the congregation should recognize and experience aspects or expression of their culture in the arts.
  • Involve professionals or people outside the church to assist the church to do right to all culture groups in the church.
  • Don’t assume what would individuals or groups of other cultures prefer or dislike. Ensure that the worship team involve people of all cultures in the planning and executing of the arts in worship.
  • Consider to have special services where the arts will dominate the worship, for example once a month, or during special times in the church or community calendar. Efforts could be made to ensure that people from the whole community attend the worship and that they will be able to participate because of the culture sensitive program.
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Kerkordelike uitdagings vir nuwe gemeente ontwikkeling

Dit word toenemend duidelik dat meer en meer leiers en gemeentes die vorming van nuwe klein geloofsgemeenskappe sien as een van die mees effektiewe metodes vir evangelisasie en nuwe gemeentevorming. Die meerderheid van diegene wat pro-aktief probeer om nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe te vestig, kom gou agter dat die bestaande Kerkorde en Reglemente van die NG Kerk hulle voor verskeie uitdagings stel. Enersyds word hulle met situasies en vrae gekonfronteer wat nie (duidelik) in die Kerkorde of Reglemente aan die orde gestel word nie en andersyds is daar bestaande bepalinge wat nie rekening hou met die besondere aard en eise van die vorming van geloofsgemeenskappe met die oog op nuwe gemeentevorming nie.

Wat volg is ’n opsommende uiteensetting van antwoorde wat ek ontvang het op ’n vraelys aan leiers wat betrokke is by die vorming van nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe oor kerkordelike
uitdagings waarvoor hulle te staan kom in die proses van nuwe gemeente ontwikkeling. Dit is sake wat na my mening deurgepraat en deurgedink moet word sodat die Kerkorde en Reglemente aangepas of aangevul kan word om nuwe gemeenteontwikkeling beter te begelei. Sommige van hierdie sake word wel in ’n mindere of meerdere mate in die huidige Kerkorde en Reglemente aan die orde gestel.

Die begin van nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe

1.      In watter mate en hoe moet die vorming van nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe geskied met die kennisname en goedkeuring van die plaaslike gemeente en breër kerklike verband?

Vrae in die verband is minder wanneer ’n plaaslike gemeente ’n doelbewuste poging aanwend om nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe te vorm. Die vrae word egter meer wanneer gelowiges aangemoedig word om geloofsgemeenskappe te probeer vestig deur hulle kontak met ongelowiges waar hulle hul ook ontmoet. In so ’n geval kan ’n nuwe
geloofsgemeenskap tot stand kom uit werksverhoudinge, sportaktiwiteite of betrokkenheid by ’n skool ens. Die plek van samekoms is dan dikwels heeltemal buite die geografiese grense van die plaaslike gemeente en diegene wat tuis kom in die nuwe geloofsgemeenskap kom ook uit verskillende gebiede. Nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe groei dikwels primêr deur familie en vriende van verskillende streke wat hulle tuis voel in die nuwe geloofsgemeenskap. Is dit bv. noodsaaklik dat die plaaslike NG Gemeente in die geografiese gebied waar so ’n ’n geloofsgemeenskap bymekaarkom, die projek moet goedkeur of moet dit net geskied met die kennisname/goedkeuring van die gemeente vanwaar die stigter/leier van die nuwe geloofsgemeenskap kom?

Die funksionering van ’n nuwe geloofsgemeenskap

1.      Watter vorme van lidmaatskap geld in ’n nuwe geloofsgemeenskap?

By die vorming van nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe gebeur dit dikwels dat mense met ’n ander kerklike agtergrond aktief inskakel by die nuwe geloofsgemeenskap. Alhoewel hulle
vrymoedigheid het om in te skakel by ’n geloofsgemeenskap wat deur die NG Kerk begin en bedryf word, is baie om verskillende redes nie geneë om volle lidmate van die NG Kerk te word nie. Watter kerkregtelike opsies bestaan daar om enersyds aan die lidmate ’n geleentheid te gee om hulle op ’n amptelike wyse as lidmaat/deelnemer van die nuwe geloofsgemeenskap te registreer en andersyds om aan hulle die nodige vryheid te gee om deel van die geloofsgemeenskap te wees sonder om volle lidmaat van die NG Kerk te word. Is daar verskillende vlakke van lidmaatskap moontlik?

2.      Aan watter vereistes moet gelowiges voldoen om in die leierskorps van ’n nuwe geloofsgemeenskap opgeneem te word?

Leierskap in nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe is gewoonlik ’n baie groot uitdaging.  Is dit moontlik om in die leierskapspan van ’n nuwe geloofsgemeenskap te dien sonder om ’n lidmaat van die NG Kerk te wees?  Baie nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe funksioneer sonder
die direkte teenwoordigheid of betrokkenheid van ’n predikant omdat die  geloofsgemeenskap deur die bediening van nie-predikante tot stand gekom het en/of daar ook nie ’n predikant beskikbaar is wat direk en dikwels by die geloofsgemeenskap betrokke kan wees nie. Gelowiges neem in die proses funksies oor wat normaalweg met ’n predikant geassosieer word en in die Kerkorde as sy/haar taak omskryf word, soos bv. prediking en die bediening van die sakramente.  Tans verleen die Kerkorde slegs aan predikante  bedieningsbevoegdheid oor verskeie aspekte van die bediening wat ook in nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe kernfunksies is, maar waarvoor predikante nie beskikbaar is nie.

3 Watter amptelike dokumente is in ander tale as Afrikaans beskikbaar vir gebruik in nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe?

Nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe sluit dikwels mense van verskillende taal- en
kultuuragtergronde in. Watter amptelike dokumente (Kerkorde, Reglemente, liturgieë,
sangbundels, formuliere en belydenisskrifte) is in ander tale beskikbaar?

Die verband tussen nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe en die NG Kerk

1.  Watter vorm van verband kan met die NG Kerk aangegaan word waar ’n nuwe
geloofsgemeenskap tot stand gekom het deur die bediening van ’n NG lidmaat (e)
maar die nuwe geloofsgemeenskap wil nie ’n volwaardige gemeente van die NG Kerk
word nie?

Tans maak die Kerkorde ruimte daarvoor dat nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe kan ontwikkel tot volwaardige gemeentes van die NG Kerk.  Voor die status van volle
gemeente, bly die nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe projekte of bedieningspunte van ’n
bepaalde gemeente, of kan as ’n wyksgemeente funksioneer.

Dit is nie ongehoord dat inisiatiewe om nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe te vorm, dikwels daartoe lei dat gelowiges wat om die een of ander rede kerklos geraak het, by so ’n geloofsgemeenskap inskakel. Sodanige mense kom uit ’n bepaalde kerklike tradisie en spiritualiteit en voel om verskeie redes ongemaklik om te ontwikkel tot ’n volwaardige gemeente van die NG Kerk. Tog verwelkom die geloofsgemeenskap die betrokkenheid en ’n verband met die NG Kerk.

2. Op watter stadium kan die nuwe geloofsgemeenskap amptelik in verband tree met ander nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe, gemeentes, ringe en sinodes?

Die Kerkorde maak net voorsiening vir volwaardige gemeentes om in verband te tree met ringe en sinodes. Die vereistes vir volwaardige gemeentes sluit o.a. in geboue,
betaalde predikante en finansiële sekerheid ens.

Voorstanders vir die vorming van nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe verstaan ’n volwaardige
gemeente/kerk primêr organies en nie institusioneel nie. Kerk/gemeente is daar waar diegene wat in Jesus Christus glo, om Jesus as die opgestane Here versamel om God te aanbid en onder sy leiding na die wêreld in woord en daad uit te reik. In die proses word die Woord verkondig, die sakramente bedien en vind onderlinge bemoediging en vermaning plaas. Al hierdie dinge kan met ’n klein groepie in ’n huis of sel plaasvind. Dit is volwaardige kerk alhoewel nie ’n volwasse of volgroeide kerk nie. Gemeentewees word nie deur geboue of predikante bepaal nie.  Kan daar vorme van direkte en amptelike verband tussen “huiskerke” en ander gemeentes en ringe wees behalwe via wyksgemeentes of bedieninge van bestaande gevestigde gemeentes?

3.   Is dit moontlik dat ’n netwerk van nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe in ’n bepaalde streek as netwerk in verband kan tree met die NG Kerk in breër verband sodat die nuwe
geloofsgemeenskappe direk verteenwoordig kan word by ringe en sinodes?

Sommige leiers betrokke by die vorming van nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe het die ervaring dat alhoewel hulle plaaslike gemeentes vir hulle die ruimte geskep het om nuwe
geloofsgemeenskappe te vorm, hierdie gemeentes nie altyd werklik daarin slaag om hulle eiesoortige uitdagings en behoeftes by die ringe en sinodes te kommunikeer of hulle effektief in te skakel by besinning of bedieninge deur die groter kerkverband nie. Hulle gemeentes verteenwoordig net die nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe, maar daar is nie direkte verteenwoordiging van die nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe in die groter verband nie.

4.  Watter vereistes, voorregte en verantwoordelikhede is ter sprake wanneer ’n nuwe
geloofsgemeenskap  amptelik in verband met die NG Kerk wil  tree?

Tans kom nuwe geloofsgemeenskappe tot stand wat geen amptelike verband met enige ander gevestigde kerk het nie.  Sommige van hierdie geloofsgemeenskappe sal ’n nouer verband met ’n gevestigde gemeente hoog op prys stel. So is daar bv. Franssprekende geloofsgemeenskappe in die Skiereiland wat ’n openheid het om in nouer verband met die NG Kerk te tree.




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Different models for multicultural congregations and ministries

What is a multicultural congregation or ministry?

 A multicultural congregation or ministry recognizes, embraces, utilizes and celebrates the racial, cultural, generational, gender, and other diversity represented in the community and the church. The congregation intentionally wants to be inclusive and ministering to
all people in the community. The congregation honours and promotes diversity within
the context of the more fundamental unity of the body of Christ.

Unity which is celebrated and re-enforced in practical ways opens the way for the celebration and the utilisation of the diversity in the congregation. Multicultural ministry is more than tolerance or the assimilation of minority groups into the dominant culture of the congregation. Individuals and groups who all form part of the diversity in the congregation must be accepted, understood, appreciated and allowed to bring their distinctive or unique gifts and contributions to the bigger body of Christ.

For the purpose of this discussion, the emphasis in the description of a multicultural congregation is on the intention to be inclusive and to minister to all people in the community. To what degree a congregation will be able to give real and practical expression to these intentions, is determined by many things in and outside the congregation.  Some people restrict multicultural congregations to those congregations where people from different races and cultural backgrounds worship and serve God together and where no race or ethnic group represents more than about 80% of those involved in worship or service. When at least 20% of a congregation does not belong to the dominant group, they have a real impact on the nature and life of a congregation. This is a helpful description for a particular kind of multicultural / multiracial congregation or ministry (see model 5), but there are more models which also give expression to multicultural ministries in the church.

Different models for multicultural congregations and ministries

Congregations which are intentionally inclusive and motivated to minister to all people in the community, give in different ways practical and structural expression to it. This is due to reasons such as different sociological contexts, resources available, the maturity and mission awareness of the congregation and the theology, vision and gifts of the leadership.  Multicultural congregations may at times also move through different stages or models of
multicultural ministry in the course of time.  Some congregations may use or adapt more than one model in their multicultural congregation and ministry.

It is possible to identify for example the following models for multicultural congregations and ministries.  The depth or degree of multicultural ministry or multiculturalism differs in these models.



This model of a multicultural congregation or ministry is usually the result of a conscious church planting program of the “mother” congregation among people of a different culture(s). The mother church gives birth to a new congregation (or more than one) which could be a culture homogenous unit (ethnic church) or a multicultural congregation from the very start.  While the new congregation depends initially heavily upon the resources of the mother church, the aim is to train and develop local leadership and financial independency. The church planting effort requires intercultural ministries and the sharing of different resources from the very start Multicultural organizational structures will follow in order to maintain a good relationship between the “mother and daughter”. This
may include things such as joint services of worship, joint community service
programs and joint decision making bodies.


  • This model enables congregations to minister effectively over a period of time among a different culture group, or in a geographical area some distance from the
    mother congregation. This is indeed a form of missionary involvement in the
  • Monocultural congregations can be exposed to and drawn into multicultural ministries through the multicultural church planting program and new informal and formal relationship with the new congregation. The congregation does not experience a real threat to their known church culture, but may be motivated by the experience to become more inclusive. This however, will usually only happen
    when there is a deliberate initiative by the leadership to develop the intercultural ministries of the congregation.
  • This model provides an opportunity for multicultural ministry to members of a
    congregation when the majority of the congregation is not yet convinced or prepared for multicultural ministries or a multicultural congregation.


  • Monocultural congregations may use this model to justify themselves against criticism that they are not inclusive in their services of worship and ministry to people of other cultures in the immediate area of the church building or within the established congregational boundaries. The congregation may be situated in a
    geographical and sociological context with ample of opportunities to minister to people of a different culture (s), but stick to monocultural ministries at home.
  • The multicultural ministry far away utilises all the resources and energy of the
    congregation so that there is simply no energy or resources left for multicultural ministry opportunities at home, even if the congregation is fully aware of it.
  • This model can tempt congregations to consider missionary involvement and intercultural ministries as a choice of certain (usually a minority)  members of the congregation without necessarily the involvement of the whole congregation in the ministering to the near and far away communities. In this thinking the monocultural congregation as a whole has missionaries or multicultural ministries, but need not to be as a missionary involved with all people in the community.



 In this model a congregation does not plant or develop a new congregation, but adopts an existing congregation which operates in another culture.  The aim of the adoption is to develop close ties with the congregation with the view of supporting the congregation in its ministry among the particular people group or in a specific geographical area. The partnership which develops between the two autonomous congregations opens the way for joint multicultural worship and intercultural ministries at times.


This model has the same advantages than the first. Other advantages of this model includes:

  • This model opens the way for congregations with limited resources (funds, manpower, infrastructure) to work effectively among people of another culture or with the help, leadership and infrastructure of the other congregation.
  • Resourceful congregations can be assisted by the partner congregations to use their resources in the most appropriate way among the unknown culture group or
    community at large.
  • The partner congregation can also play a role in the spiritual development and
    ministry of the other congregation which initiated the partnership.


The disadvantages of model 1 are also applicable for model 2.


In this model for multicultural ministry the focus is on regular and more intens intercultural contact and joint ministry between members of different churches. During the joint festivities or projects members of the different churches do a lot of things together, but thereafter they worship and minister again in their respective churches.


  •  This model opens opportunities for intercultural ministries for congregations which do not have the resources, circumstances or support of the whole congregation for comprehensive or ongoing intercultural ministries.
  • This model makes it possible to expose and involve Christians gradually into
    intercultural ministries and the formation of multicultural congregations.
  • Since people can commit themselves for a specific purpose within a clear time
    schedule, more Christians may get involve in intercultural ministries than a
    more permanent forms of intercultural ministry.


  • Congregations situated in a multicultural context may use the periodic intercultural worship and projects with other churches as an excuse for not becoming themselves more inclusive and involved  in intercultural
    ministries within and through the congregation even when they have the
    resources to do so.
  • In most cases only a small number of members of the participating churches will
    actively participate in activities planned and executed by the forum. The different congregations will still accommodate them and serve their interests even if they do not participate in the worship and projects of the forum.


A number of autonomous ethnic or language congregations make all use of the same building and infrastructure. In order to do this, they all sign an agreement about the use, up keeping and maintenance of the premises. This agreement may include a number of joint services of worship, joint outreaches or joint service in the community.

A variance on this model is where the host church plants language or ethnic churches in the community and allow these new autonomous congregations of their own denomination to use their buildings and infrastructure.


  • Congregations with big or strategic premises or infrastructure provide ministry opportunities for smaller congregations which cannot afford it or have no way to acquire a strategic infrastructure for their ministries in the area.  Good stewardship of resources.
  • The language or ethnic churches may minister effectively to ethnic or language
    groups in the community when the hosting congregation does not have the
    resources or capacity to do it. The hosting congregation stimulates  evangelism and service through the partners.
  • This model also enables congregations to promote ministries to people of another
    culture where they differ in their spirituality or theological preferences.  People from the same language or ethnic group may for example worship in autonomous Reformed or Pentecostal congregations at the same premises.
  • The host congregation can easily strengthen ecumenical ties with the denominations to which the residential churches belong.
  • Costs for infrastructure and maintenance is shared so that more funds become
    available for different ministries.


  • If there are no pro-active initiatives to promote joint action between the
    different churches, it is possible that the host congregation may have no, or
    very little interpersonal contact with the members of the other churches. While
    this model may give then attention to the diversity in the church, the unity
    can easily be compromised.
  • The host congregation may neglect opportunities for service in the community or to certain culture groups since they assume that the other participating
    congregations will do it. Neglect, capacity restrains or a focus on their own
    culture only may however prevent the other congregations to minister to the
    said people or communities.


Congregations who follow this model, develop over time parallel ministries for language or ethnic groups within the one congregation. The parallel ministries can include activities which can range from ministries which take almost complete care of all the ministry needs of a language or culture group to only certain activities which will be done separately in specific culture or language groups. Leaders and ministry personnel for the different groups also come as far as possible from the different language or culture groups. Most congregations who follow this model have different services of worship and Sunday school classes for different language groups while other activities of the congregation may be More integrated such as youth work or the training of leaders and members of the congregation. Usually there are also on regular times joint services or activities which acknowledge and promote the unity of the body of Christ.  The different parallel ministries usually have extensive decision making power with regard to matters of their ministry. However the different parallel ministries are all represented and part of the church council which make binding decisions for all of the parallel ministries.

A variation of this model is where the congregation conducts its ministry in a certain language or for a specific culture group in mind, but also have a parallel multicultural ministry where English dominates. Different language and culture groups participate then
mainly through the medium of English although there may be small groups for certain language or ethnic groups.


  •  The biggest advantage of this model is the ability to open worship and
    ministry opportunities in the mother tongue of people from different cultures.
  •  The congregation as a whole can minister effectively to a wide variety of people in the immediate area of the church;
  • If special care is taken to promote and celebrate also the unity of the congregation through joint worship and different projects, all the members will be blessed by die diversity of its members.


  •  This model requires extensive resources in terms of premises, personnel
    and funds if several groups are accommodated in the congregation;
  • The resources (manpower, funds) for this model come under pressure if
    the different parallel ethnic or language groups are very small.  (The problem is less if there is one big group among the others who can provide resources to the others);
  • It unfortunately happens often the unity among the different parallel groups and ministeries, exists only in name. Members of the different groups experience Often very little meaningful interaction and fellowship outside their own language or ethnic group. Pro-active planning and action is needed on an ongoing basis to ensure that the parallel ministries do not become for all practical purposes completely independent and isolated from the others.


The aim of this model is to include and involve people from all languages and cultures in joint worship, training and ministeries in the community. Members of the congregation do not divide along language and culture lines but efforts are made to overcome the communication and other culture barriers between the members. Diversity and unity are
blessings that should always be experienced in the very presence of the others. Members are not encouraged to strive for a melting pot where culture distinctiveness disappear, but to express them culturally in a sensitive way.  In most cases one language, usually English,
serves as the basic language of the congregation, but efforts are made to accommodate and use also other languages to ensure that each one can participate even if they are not fluent or able to use English (Translation; using different languages in different parts of service etc).

Nearly all congregations who follow this model, make a deliberate effort to be totally inclusive and multicultural in all worship and ministry. Strong leadership, flexibility and a teaching spirit are all needed to minister in such a congregation. This  model is usually the most appropriate where the congregation exists,  or will exist of small numbers of various ethnic or language groups in a community.  It is also a good choice in contexts where there are not very strong language or ethnic feelings among the people in the community. In such a community things other than race,  culture or language are the dominant forces
which draw or divide people such as income and living standards, education, class or a joint interest.


  •  This model gives most probably the best expression to the nature of the church in the New Testament as far as diversity is concerned since it builds upon joint worship and service of all believers.
  • This model is a strong witness of the reconciliation and new life in Christ and renders credibility to the preaching of the Gospel.
  • People who mature in their Christian life through joint worship and service in the congregation, are better equipped to witness and minister to a multicultural society outside the church.
  • Inter-race and inter-culture couples and families usually settle easier
    in such congregations than others which have not regular joint services for all
    language or ethnic people in the congregation.


  • The model demands a lot of leadership: Strong pro-active visionary leadership; Diversity in leadership; Flexible and teachable leadership.
  • Usually the culture of the biggest culture/language tends to dominate which put more strain on members of minority cultures than on those of majority culture.
  • Tension builds up or people leave the congregation if good or special
    arrangements are not made to meet the language needs of those who are not
    fluent in the dominant language used in the congregation, especially with
    regard to first generation believers or children who cannot communicate easily.


In this model house groups or cells in a community or wider area stand in the centre of all
activity. These cells can be homogenous or multicultural units which can reflect a wide range of diversity. Every cell is considered to be fully church because all aspects of a church such as fellowship, pastoral care, lay preaching, prayer, evangelism, community service and accountability occur more informally and naturally.  The life of the church is expressed in relationships and not in a building. The church is understood to be a dynamic, organic, spiritual being which finds expression in the lives of believers. Although cells or members of cells also attend regular worship and other meetings at a central point with other cells,  the main source of life and direction is the cell and not the gatherings of all people who are involved in cells.

A variation of this model is where a more traditional congregation also promotes house groups and cells where cells are motivated and equipped to meet the spiritual needs of
its members and to render service in the bigger congregation and community.
Different cells can provide in this model for specific needs of different culture groups such as language, customs, training etc.   Some multicultural congregations who put a lot of emphasis on joint services of worship, also create cells to meet the need of specific culture groups in the congregation.


  •  This model is attractive to post modern people who are wary of structures and authority and who want participatory worship.
  • Language and culture differences can easily be accommodated in different cells.
  • Cells can easily adapt or change to meet changed sociological and environmental changes.
  • The cells function easily as evangelism and discipleship tools in a community.
  • Interpersonal relationships and not formal structures form the backbone of all activity.


  •  Cells can easily start to function highly independent of other cells and believers so that diversity in the context of unity get lost. The danger of self-centered units who care only about themselves are real or cells who brake all ties with other cells or churches.
  • Leaders of cells are often ill equipped for their role. The centralized training and worship opportunities are not always enough to meet the need of leaders of cells.
  • Cells may get very one-sided in their views, fellowship and ministry in the community.


Appleby, J.L. 1986.  Urban Cross-Cultural Church Planting Models.

Davis, K. 2003. Multicultural Church Planting Models in The Journal of
Ministry & Theology Spring, p 114-127.

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